February

Cultivate and prepare seedbeds, covering them with clear polythene, cloches or fleece to warm up the soil before sowing.

Finish any major digging and weeding.

Plan a crop rotation system for your vegetable plot, to ensure that the same crops are not grown in the same beds year after year. This helps to prevent disease build up.

You can rake in lime this month - if you have acid soil, or have had previous problems with club root, and wish to grow brassicas; the ground won't be ready for planting out until April or May, as an interval of two months is needed between liming and planting.

Continue to harvest any remaining winter crops (e.g. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks, parsnips, swede, celeriac and turnip).

Continue to force chicory and seakale. Dig up selected chicory roots, pot them up, and position them in a dark, warm place (10-13°C; 50-55°F), with an upturned pot over them to exclude light. The tasty chicons will appear in three to six weeks. Seakale is best forced outside at seasonal temperatures, with an upturned pot or cardboard box/tube over the top to exclude the light.

From mid-February onwards sow greenhouse-grown tomatoes and cucumbers. Use a heated propagator or warm room at 21°C (70°F) to encourage germination, and then keep them potted on at a lower temperature of 15-18°C (60-65°F).

Chit seed potato tubers as soon as you have them. Stand them upright with the rose end (having most shoots) facing upwards in a light, cool but frost-free place. Old egg boxes make excellent holders.

Prepare new asparagus beds by weeding, digging over thoroughly, and incorporating lots of organic matter. Additional grit, together with lots of organic matter, may improve conditions on very heavy soils. Good soil preparation is essential as asparagus can remain in the same soil for up to 25 years.

Plant out garlic and shallots in light soils only; heavy soils need longer to warm up.

If you have light (sandy) soil and live in a mild part of the UK, you can sow broad beans, carrots, parsnips, early beetroot, bulb onions, lettuces, radish, peas, spinach and summer cabbage outside under cloches, in soil that has been covered for a few weeks to pre-warm it. If the weather in your area has been very cold, then wait until late March. If you have heavy (clay) soil, it is best to wait until March. Seeds can always be sown in pots or modules, under cover, if you are eager to get started.

Peas can be sown in the greenhouse in old (but clean) guttering that has had drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Starting them under cover gives them a head start. When the seedlings are ready for planting out, the whole row can be gently pushed out of the guttering, into a ready prepared drill in the vegetable garden.

Plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers. They can act as a screen for the shed or compost bin, as they get quite tall.

Feed spring cabbages that have been standing all winter. High nitrogen feeds such as Growmore or pelleted poultry manure are good choices.

When spring cabbages are ready to harvest, cut them off the stem and make a cross in the top of the cut stem. Sometimes mini-cabbages, or ‘spring greens’ will grow from the cut stems.

You could prepare your runner bean supports and trenches for sowing (in May) or planting out (in June). This will save you time later.

Try to avoid digging in wet weather, but if gardening on top of wet soil, work from a plank of wood, to avoid treading on the bed and compacting the soil.

Material Courtesy of www.rhs.org.uk

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